Heaven Hill sues Bob Dylan-owned whiskey brand in trademark spat
LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) – Attorneys for a well-known Kentucky bourbon maker are knock, knock, knockin' on Bob Dylan’s door.
Heaven Hill Distillery has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Heaven’s Door Spirits, a whiskey line co-owned by Dylan that was released earlier this year.
The company's name is a reference to Dylan’s 1973 song Knockin' on Heaven’s Door.
The lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Louisville, argues that the Bardstown-based company was founded by the Shapira family shortly after prohibition ended in the 1930s and has used the trademark for more than 80 years.
A Heaven Hill attorney sent a cease-and-desist letter to Chicago-based Heaven’s Door in April, saying the start-up distillery’s use of its trademark “will create a likelihood of confusion” with the Kentucky bourbon brand's products.
The letter specifically notes that Heaven's Door has introduced a “stacked" logo similar to the one used by Heaven Hill.
In their response, Heaven’s Door attorneys argued they “did not believe a likelihood of confusion would result … and advised that it did not intend to change the Infringing Mark or otherwise comply with the demands," according to the lawsuit.
The Heaven’s Door whiskey line debuted in May, featuring a straight rye finished in French Vosges oak casks, a seven-year-old bourbon and a “double-barrelled” whiskey, according to an article in Forbes.
The project is a collaboration between Dylan and liquor entrepreneur Marc Bushala, a force behind Louisville bourbon Angel's Envy, which was sold for $150 million to Bacardi in 2015, according to the article.
Dylan is the face of the whiskey for all promotional material, and the bottle label design is based on his ironwork sculptures, Forbes reported.
In the lawsuit, Heaven Hill argues it has spent $7.5 million in the last five years alone on nationwide marketing.
Just last year, Heaven Hill unveiled a $25 million expansion that will produce 100,000 more barrels of bourbon a year.
The expansion at its Bernheim Facility on West Breckinridge Street includes a new still, four new fermenters and new infrastructure.
Founded in 1935, Heaven Hill Distillery has 1.3 million barrels aging in 54 warehouses throughout Nelson and Jefferson counties. Heaven Hill is considered to be among the last remaining family-owned and -operated independent Kentucky bourbon company.
The lawsuit is asking a judge to grant a temporary injunction prohibiting Heaven’s Door from producing, distributing or marketing until the lawsuit is concluded.
In addition, attorneys for Heaven Hill want a judge to force Heaven’s Door to “deliver up for destruction or other disposition all goods, packaging, containers, advertisements, promotions, signs, displays” with their company name.
The suit is also seeking unspecified monetary damages.
An attorney for Heaven Hill declined to comment because of pending litigation. Heaven's Door did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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